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I'm sorry, but we need to talk about apologies

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Bad apologies are everywhere. 

When you're on the receiving end of an apology, it's easy to identify what makes an apology unsatisfying. (Hint: If the words "I'm sorry" are followed by "but" or "if" it's usually not a good sign.)

However, when you're the one trying to make amends, it's easy to lose sight of those pitfalls. It's all too tempting to try to justify your own actions, and it is hard work to truly imagine yourself in the other person's shoes. 

Today on MPR News, guest host Tiffany Hanssen spoke with two podcasters about the value of a good mea culpa and tips for making your next apology better. 

Guests: 

 Molly Fischer is the host of "The Cut on Tuesdays" podcast.

 Steve Almond is the co-host of the podcast "Dear Sugars" with Cheryl Strayed and the author of several books. His latest book is called "Bad Stories."

There's more than one way to apologize, but some methods are better than others

• Be compassionate:  It sounds simple, but it's key. The best apologies come after a sincere attempt to understand the other person's experience.

•  It can't be performative:  You should apologize because you've wronged someone and it's the right thing to do. You can't wield an apology as a tool to fast-forward through an uncomfortable situation. 

•  Take ownership:  You are responsible for your own actions. Acknowledge that the result of your decision was harmful to another person. 

 Be thoughtful with your word choice:  Try saying "I'm sorry I did/said this" instead of "I'm sorry if you felt...."

•  Don't expect anything in return for your apology: Apologies are not a transaction. You can't expect forgiveness in exchange for your words. You need to give people time and space to process the situation and to respond on their own terms. 

 Look at this as an opportunity for growth:  What did you learn from reflecting on this experience? What behaviors will you change in response? 

At some point, everyone has either been wronged or wronged someone else. It's important to keep that fact in mind. As a rule, people are complicated and they make mistakes, including people who are actively trying to make themselves better. 

 Use the audio player above to hear the full discussion.